The Security Challenges in Africa. "Bridging the Gap Between Human Security and State Security Through Institutional Reforms"

Case-study of Nigeria

Research Paper (postgraduate), 2015
17 Pages





I. The concept of state security in review with respect to the security situation in certain African States:


II. Concept of human security.

Introduction and overview:

Definition of Human Security:

III. Security-governance-development:

IV. Case-study: The Niger Delta Crisis and the Boko Haram Menace in Nigeria.




This paper seeks to show that institutional reforms (institutions) are urgently needed in the area of security (physical security, human security & state security) especially as the general idea that the inability of most African states during their developmental stage (evolution) to ensure national cohesion, as relevant as it might seem, is being overtaken by other emerging factors notably their inability to control boundaries and provide their citizens’ right to life of which freedom is a very important component. These perceived weaknesses of most States in Africa epitomize the concept of failed states. This paper proposes a merger between human security and state security as the contemporary security breaches are multidimensional and in a State’s bid to adequately roll out measures to tackle the latter, it is only rational that the situation will be analyzed holistically. To address this issue our article adopted the following problematic: « What could be done to ensure that the culture of peace, conflict prevention and resolution in the wake of the numerous security challenges lead to development and by extension sustainable development? » To adequately address this, our paper proposes a 3 way solution namely: « the consolidation of institutions responsible for the evolution (construction) of the state, the promotion of the role of the state in poverty reduction and lastly the inclusion and empowering of local actors in the decision making process ». This we firmly believe would help address the numerous security issues plaguing most states on the African Continent hence hindering the quality of governance. To further illustrate this, the security challenges in Nigeria have been mobilized as a case-study of which we verified and proceeded to name the fused “state security” and “human security” concepts to form “the development based security analysis approach”, which is no other than a much more complete way of analyzing security concerns.

Key words: Human security, state security, governance, development, freedom, institutions, failed state, sustainable development, reforms.


To most people, security is the very essence of human life. Without it our very existence will be compromised. State security and human security are both key concepts in this regard, yet the two are seen as being antagonistic in nature as most researchers and experts defend one and seem to either partially or total discredit the other. Meanwhile, they (physical security, state security and human security) should rather be going hand in hand as not better understanding and defining these concepts opens an avenue for security breaches of all kinds.

In the next paragraphs, we will closely look at the concept of state security in relation to human security as we seek to establish in this paper that the two are closely linked hence complementary. This stand quickly brings to a halt the notion that state security and human security have different objectives.

It also brings to a halt the notion that the concept of human security is so large and encompassing to the extent that it finally touches on areas meant for sustainable development. This paper has been shaped in a way, such that, the concept of state security is tackled first after which the paper’s problematic is conceived. Based on our analysis it became more than relevant to join the concept of state security and that of human security.

For this reason the second part of our paper touches on human security with a great deal of work extensively concentrated on verifying if the concept was in actual fact too broad as many perceive it to be. We tackled this from “a definition point of view” (literature review) by way of analyzing the various definitions given by prominent authors and institutions such as the PNUD. We later on gave credence to our findings by looking at the security issue in Nigeria, Africa’s largest economy which is also considered as a military force in West Africa but which shockingly has a great deal of security breaches (a major reason for Goodluck Jonathan’s defeat in the 2015 General Presidential elections held in that country).

Amongst major findings unearthed in this paper, this African country's woes with respect to security issues can hugely be attributed to “poverty” and bad governance. At this juncture, we would now quickly turn to the concept of state security which happens to be the very first part of our paper.

I. The concept of state security in review with respect to the security situation in certain African States:

The concept of human security was first made known by the PNUD in its 1994 human development report. This concept placed at the heart of security concerns, the individual. Material deprivation in the form of poverty was also drafted into this concept as contributing to one's insecurity. Most researchers usually express views which make it seem as if there can't be any relationship between state security and human security (PNUD, 1994).

We maintain that there's a thin line between state security and human security by virtue of the fact that the state has as its core functions the provision of security for its population as well as the protection of its frontiers (boundaries or territory) in a bid to safeguard its sovereignty. Also taking into consideration the notion of a « state provider », the state has to ensure the provision of very vital and basic necessities for the entire populace. In this regard, we can say that since the turn of the century, thus, year 2000, we have beyond all doubt seen the need for the state to play a greater role in the day to day life of its people1.

But a growing and worrying trend is that, certain African countries seem not to be able to ensure either state security or are they able to ensure human security. Rather, what they promote is a multi-facet (multidimensional) deprivation of their population, as a result of which internal wrangling and conflicts sometimes even crossing borders to become an issue between states (inter-state conflicts)2. This situation usually leads to the emergence of separatist movements who turn to create a state within the state. Normally, the regalian function of the state makes it that it has to ensure at all times that its boundaries are protected as well as maintain national cohesion. As seen in the case of many African States especially that of the Democratic Republic of Congo3, one's inability to control one's boundaries hence one's resources gives stronger or well-organized military minded neighbors the opportunity to invade one's territory.

Past and recurrent unrests in Niger, Chad and recently Mali show that the military (as an institution) face so many challenges as it is poorly equipped and lacks most often than not the necessary human capital as well as logistics to man their boundaries. As such they (these states) have become so fragile to the extent that in times of conflicts and wars we get the impression that the state is nonexistent or that we have before us a failed state. But in all earnest why is it that certain African countries seem incapable of protecting their boundaries as well as ensuring that they safeguard the right to life of their populations? Furthermore, real development can only take place when physical security with respect to the individuals in society is guaranteed. The concept of human security in this regard becomes unreliable if physical security is not obtained by the entire populace.4

But then to ensure physical security, one has to look at the protection of one's boundaries. This is a core feature of one's sovereignty. But as African states remain sovereign in their choice of security policies the question that comes to mind is that why is it that as much as we're in the 21st century some states still have boundaries that are porous and are constantly attacked and invaded at will ? This situation makes us simply doubt the sovereignty of some states as they persistently get their authority overlooked and violated hence our assertion that certain states seem to be simply non-existent or present the characteristics of a failed state. Here again the sahelo-saharan region is a perfect example.

But yet again, why is it that of all the states in Africa, it is mostly the states in this region (Sahelo-Saharan) that are not able to protect their boundaries? In some regions in Africa, notably Central Africa, the underlining factors could be attributed to disputes as a result of the presence of great mineral wealth (DR Congo, Central African Republic etc all have great mineral and natural wealth). The « paradox of plenty » has it that instead of the mineral wealth contributing to development and enriching human life it rather becomes the object of discord, usually controlled by the elite in society (Kaufmann and his kleptocracy5 concept though the latter as a term was first used in 1819) to the detriment of the other social groups and tends to fuel internal conflicts (Stiglitz, 2006). The general picture is one of rich mineral resources unfortunately giving rise to conflicts hence the state is unable to ensure state security as a result it becomes extremely fragile because of the numerous conflicts making it to finally present the characteristics of a failed state. Taking these facts into consideration the picture can't further be termed any better than one of a chaotic situation. The way forward is simply one in which states and stakeholders have to invest in state institutions.

This new analysis is in sharp contrast with what has been thought to be the reason behind some African states' inability to ensure state security. The problem is put by two schools of thought at the doorstep of the evolution of the concept of state. What is usually said is that in Africa before colonialism there were indigenes (inhabitants) across the length and breadth of the continent then came colonialism and the indigenes made up of different ethnic groups and tribes were brought under one umbrella6 (especially in Francophone Africa under the policy of assimilation, a main feature of settler colonization). Later on came independence as they collectively sought to oust a common “enemy” (patriotism was rife at this point in time). After this, the people decided to make a state unfortunately made up of certain dominant7 ethnic groups (leaving out the minority ethnic groups). The genesis of what will later on become a security issue is that this new elite or group of people enjoy the resources of the state (Kaufmann and the kleptocracy concept) to the detriment of the minority. So gradually we're witnessing the creation of a state devoid of the traits of a nation where only a minority detain great power and control unimaginable rich mineral resources. This wealth unfortunately is not converted into development for the benefit of the community at large. Finally, the State becomes a victim of itself, rendered fragile than ever before and severely criticized by the entire nation. Social movements (tensions) begin to fuel matters to the extent that the state becomes a victim of intrusion on the part of external powers who try to take its resources as a result of the state's perceived fragile condition. It has been observed that the state is rendered fragile by both local and international actors.

Going through this whole assertion, one realizes that it is being established that once independence was attained much was not done later to integrate fully certain tribes and ethnic groups hence the current disunity. Holders of these views use these assertions to explain why there is lack of national cohesion which they believe is pivotal in explaining the numerous conflicts on the continent.

This whole assertion brings to mind another idea. With respect to the constitution of a state, are there currently theories which seek to explain the incapability of states to ensure state security from an institutional standpoint or approach?

Taking into account the situation in the Sahel, the new security tendencies make it necessary to take a new look at the factors behind security issues in some African countries especially from the institutional point of view. What the reality in West Africa especially in the sahelo-saharan region has shown is that the separatist groups have different ways of trying to solve what was once considered as a fragile national cohesion issue. Some resort to stealing the very resources they claim they're being deprived of. An example is that of the Tuaregs and their recent dealings in Mali8. Others opt for the construction of a state within another one, as observed in Nigeria with respect to Boko Haram who has expressed the desire to apply “Sharia law” to the entire State (hence creating an Islamic state). Finally, we find ourselves in a new logic where people overnight become the state. This brings us to ask a very fundamental but interesting question: in light of this last point: “where finally is the state? And who is actually in control?”

At this juncture, this paper deems it fit to stress that good governance as a concept is central in ensuring that state security is maintained as the concept englobes democracy which is very fundamental in ensuring the participation of every citizen in matters concerning the nation. Good governance has also proven to be able to help consolidate institutions of which state institutions are an important part. These institutions in turn ensure that there is trust among people. Many wars and conflicts started on the backdrop of mistrust.

In light of the various views and ideas expressed earlier on with respect to the notion of state security, we seek to move to a part of this paper that seeks to highlight certain key ideas which could further be developed and could help in us better tackling the security issue.

We have noticed from the ideas held by researchers who think that in the evolution process of states, the latter (in the African context) should have gotten by now to a level capable of helping maintain national cohesion but unfortunately, that doesn’t seem to be the case. Hence, the evolution of the « concept of state » in certain African countries has been cut short (stalled) and rather presents some abnormalities. This brings us to our problematic.


« What could be done to ensure that the culture of peace, conflict prevention and resolution in the wake of the numerous security challenges lead to development? »

Imbedded in this problematic is the issue of state security as well as the concerns posed by human security (development and by extension sustainable development). It is only when the two (state security and human security) are taken into consideration and not in isolation that we can effectively address security issues.

Taking into consideration the fact that certain African countries are unable to ensure the right to life of their own people (population) as a result of their inability to protect their boundaries, it has become increasingly necessary to take a closer look at the security dispensations in those countries.


1 The current economic crises without doubt showed the need for state intervention.

2 Bokom Haram’s activities in present day Nigeria (especially during the first half of 2015) transcend the boundaries of that country to even fuel security concerns in the sub-region. They recently pledged allegiance to ISIS.

3 Organized military groups from Rwanda have on numerous occasions crossed the boundary between them and DR Congo to commit crimes in the Congolese side. They've taken over numerous mineral rich provinces and terrorized the local population.

4 Amartya Sen finds physical security to be very important in finally accomplishing one's capabilities. Physical security is the very basis upon which the theory of capabilities could actually come to light.

5 Kleptocracy was first used as far back as 1819. In certain quarters, it is defined as government by those who seek chiefly status and personal gain at the expense of the governed

6 Certain countries in Europe adopted the policy of Assimilation during the course of their own history namely France, Spain, the United Kingdom etc.

7 Dominant here refers to an ethnic group which could be well-equipped in military terms or simply were very influential in obtaining Independence hence have risen to become to become the over-lords.

8 History has it that, the Tuaregs of Mali, right from independence wanted to constitute a country on their own but were convinced to join Mali to constitute a much greater force. With the unrests in Libya (after the Arab Spring in 2011) and the fall of General Muammar Gaddafi, they returned to their homeland and quickly moved in to create a separatist movement which was finally defeated with the help of French forces.

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The Security Challenges in Africa. "Bridging the Gap Between Human Security and State Security Through Institutional Reforms"
Case-study of Nigeria
Development and Governance
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ISBN (Book)
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security, challenges, africa, bridging, between, human, state, through, institutional, reforms, case-study, nigeria
Quote paper
Frank Edem Kofigah (Author), 2015, The Security Challenges in Africa. "Bridging the Gap Between Human Security and State Security Through Institutional Reforms", Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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